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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Penguins Hold Championship DVD Premiere by @Medina_Marie17

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While the rest of the city was making their way to PNC Park, roughly 1,000 loyal Penguin fans waited for the doors of Stage AE to open. Fans were telling stories about their experiences, feelings throughout the season, being entertained by Iceburgh or fielding questions from Celina Pompeani of PensTV.  I did spot a little conflict of interest however - word to the wise - don't wear another teams gear to a championship celebration event, no matter how small it is.

It was another night to celebrate the momentous Stanley Cup Championship win as the Penguins organization held a premiere night for the newly released DVD chronicling their season and march to the Cup.

The event was hosted by Penguins radio host Josh Getzoff and newcomer to Penguins radio (and former Penguins forward), Colby Armstrong. As fans made their way into the concert space, partook in a few adult beverages and found a seat, Getzoff and Armstrong talked about the season as well as ran some clips from the playoffs. Prizes were also tossed into the crowd to the delight of fans (t-shirts, hats DVDs, etc).


A side note: I do no suggest throwing DVDs. It is dangerous and not a smart idea all around.


The Cup was not available for the event (it with Derrick Pouliout), the Prince of Wales, the Conn Smyth, and the GM of the Year Award trophies were all on hand for fans to take pictures with. Attendees were also treated to a surprise announcement. In honor of the Penguins 50th anniversary, a documentary is being filmed about the team and will air sometime this fall (no specific date was given). They were also rewarded with being the first to watch the trailer for the documentary (the trailer will give you chills when its made public).


Once everyone was in their seats, just before 8 o'clock PM, Josh Getzoff did a live "Ask Army" segment (which is Colby Armstrong's usual segment for 11 On the Ice on WPXI). Fans raised their hands to ask his opinions on topics like his experience rooming with Sidney Crosby, how he felt watching the Penguins raise the Cup, and I personally asked him if he thought Evgani Malkin's Spin-o-Rama, backhand shot to top shelf against Edmonton was one of the top 5 plays all season. He answered all questions with his dazzling smile and thoroughly explained anything needing more in-depth detail.

A little after 8 o'clock the lighted dimmed and the DVD was shown. Fans reacted to the many game moments much like they would if they were re-watching the game at home. A lot of laughter, cheers and yes, even some "whooo's" could be heard coming from the crowd. Tears were even shed during the final minutes as we all re-watched Trevor Daley and Pasqual Dupuis hoist the Cup overhead and recount their feelings.


Some of the loudest cheers came, of course, while watching Phil Kessel raise the Cup on stage at the end of the victory parade.

It was an incredible evening and a great way to re-live the excitement of this years season and Stanley Cup run. Below are some other pictures and a clip from the event as well for you to take a gander at. This team is something special and so are it's fans. So as head coach, Mike Sullivan, said: "Let's do this again same time next year"


Fans make their way into Stage AE for the premiere.





Our hosts: Mr. Josh Getzoff and Mr. Colby "Cheese" Armstrong

The Conn Smyth Trophy and GM of the Year Award/ Trophy

The Prince of Wales Eastern Conference Championship Trophy

Had a great time! Let's do it again next year!







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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gotta Catch'em All: Poke'-Pens Part 2 by @Medina_Marie17 and @trubluePensfan

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You made it through the first round and (we hope) have not walked into walls while playing this crazy game.  We now  head right into the second part of our fun comparison article. There isn't much really to say about it. Welcome to Part 2 of Poke'- Pens.


Forwards:


Bryan Rust: Usually I (Medina) classify Bryan Rust as the Tasmanian Devil but for this article we had to find a Pokémon, not a Looney Toon. One that is fast, agile, and has hands (or claws) that can inflict the most damage. It also had to be a Pokémon who has a tough exterior and a lot of heart. No other character embodies these attributes than a Sandslash.



Evgeni Malkin: The fan-dubbed "Russian Bear" is a favorite within Penguin Nation. Picking the appropriate Pokémon was a must, however it did not take very long. There is only one Pokemon that could do our Russian star, Evgeni Malkin, any justice. Malkin is the mighty bear Pokémon, Ersaring. Ersaring are only aggressive when provoked, a character trait shared with Evgeni Malkin. Another is their size and speed. Both the skater and (fictional) bear will use these in order to attack their prey and capitalize on weaknesses. Ersaring are also very protective of their young which is very fitting for this new dad. The rule still stands- do not tick off the Russian/Pokémon Bear unless you are prepared to deal with the consequences.

Chris Kunitz: We changed Chris Kunitz's selected Pokémon 3 times before finalizing it. While players like Kunitz are common, when trained properly they can be a huge asset and a powerful force within a team. Paired with the right centerman (Sideny Crosby), he becomes a dependable and stellar line-mate as well as protective one. Kunitz is not afraid to get in someone's face if you mess with his captain. It was only fitting to make him a Zubat for all of those reasons.


Tom Kuhnackl: This German grinder started out a tough yet humble shell. He could score but had no real movement in any other area of his game. Kuhnhackl begins as a Kakuna...a pupa stage Pokémon in the midst of evolution (yes, the play on names was too much to resist). When the time was right, Kuhnhackl cracked his shell and evolved into the deadly Beedrill.  An asset on the penalty kill shows him to be very territorial, and his quick attacks for short handed goals are all shared traits of a Beedrill. Beedrill are also known to attack as a group, so when Kuhnhackl comes down the wing with Cullen or Fehr (or both) in tow, it can be too much of a sting for a goalie to handle.

Matt Cullen: The team dad is another fan favouite. While we all wait on baited breath to see if he will remain with the Penguins, we can relive his incredible season. Cullen is, indeed, a rarity amongst hockey players. At his age, he continues to play as though he were ten years younger. He is a veteran who leads by example. He was called upon to fill many roles and like a mighty knight galloping in to save the day, he brandished his stick as a sword in battle scoring goals at the most opportune times. For a man 39-years of age to play as he has this past season in the NHL (in this day in age) is truly unbelievable, or, Farfetched.

Eric Fehr: Yet another play on words (seriously, we could not help ourselves), Eric Fehr is denoted as being the flying bird Pokémon, Fearow. Fehr will swoop in for a pass without warning. Both he and Fearow possess extreme amounts of stamina and are considerably larger than the roles. Speaking of being larger, Fearow is one of the bigger bird-type Pokémon and Fehr stands at a towering 6-foot, 4-inches. Neither are one you want to get pecked by. He is on a line with both Cullen and Kuhnackl. It is indeed a special line those three Poke'-Pens make up.



Defense:

Kris Letang: Long, flowing, luxurious locks of hair, a fluffy crest atop the head...and a vengeful attitude that will see you cursed for 1000 years if you brutalize it or get on it's bad side. I not only speak of the Pokémon, Ninetales, but also of defenseman Kris Letang. Both share these similar attributes. Both are also very cunning, swift-footed and intelligent. It is said that Ninetales' eyes can control minds...this might be how Letang is able to get into the heads of opponents and goalies so well.
Trevor Daley: A Doldrio possess many personalities all of which want to take center stage. It can change from being happy, to upset, to angry at the drop of a hat. With it's high endurance it is able to withstand lengthy battles and its intelligence (having three brains and all) allows it to execute complex strategies with ease. We have a defenseman like that...his name is Trevor Daley.

Ian Cole: He has a fantastic ginger beard and a feisty attitude thus we wanted to honor this defenseman accordingly. There are few Pokémon who are predominantly red and have the same complimentary personality to Ian Cole. There is one that came to mind and that is Krabby, a water-type Pokémon. Like Cole, a Krabby is extremely defensive when protecting its "home"(Consol Energy Center). It is also very protective of others and aggressive when needed. I guess being a Krab(by) pays off every once in a while.

Goalie:

Matt Murray: Matt Murray can be described as long, thin, and very flexible. He is a pain to try and score on because of his size and ability to stretch out across the goal mouth. He is very much a Bell Sprout, the baby flower Pokémon (yes, we said it). He is able to swerve rapidly just as a Bell Sprout does in order to defend his net and is able to capture prey (using his glove hand) with blinding speed (prey being a puck). A Bell Sprout evolves into the massive and intimidating Victoribell and, with a little more time, we all know more victories will come to Matt Murray.



Baby Penguin-


Tom Sestito: This tough as nails hockey player falls into one two categories of Poke-types: rock and fighting. He is solid and steadfast and will drop the gloves when the need arises. Sestito has a lot of heart and a lot of guts but can really pack a punch. He is also sturdy, which is a special attack of the Pokémon, Geodude. Tom Sestitio is a player you are glad to have on your side when things get chippy.  



Jim Rutherford: Rounding out our Pokémon piece is the man who brought this team together. The man pulling the strings. The head honcho in the front office (besides Mario). He is very organized and efficient. A smug leader with a lot of brass and some sass. He also slightly resembles what he is about to be compared to. Jim Rutherford is Squirtle and leader of the Squirtle Squad.


We hope you have enjoyed these fun articles. Happy Poke-hunting and please, watch where you are going.




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The Penguins Goaltending Situation: Cap Space Edition

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The goaltending situation is more complicated than we understand right now, but it’s okay.

The Penguins have a good problem on their hands.  We know it.  They know it. 

Jim Rutherford knows that having two Stanley Cup winning goaltenders under contract going into the 2016-2017 season (with a combined $6.2M cap hit) is a problem any other team in the NHL would love to have.  Marc-Andre Fleury has the 14th highest cap hit for a goaltender going into the 2016-2017 season.  Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t an expensive goaltender: just ask the New York Rangers. 

The Penguins’ long-term plan is simple:  Compete for a Stanley Cup until 2021.  After that, all bets are off.  This team will look decidedly different in 2022, for better or for worse, and this will weigh on decisions related to the goaltending situation. 


Jim Rutherford signed an extension for another 3 years (until 2018-2019), and that should indicate that he sees the potential for another Stanley Cup run in that time.  In the past, Jim has made some moves that many fans thought were peculiar– if not ludicrous– but it all came together in 2016.  It worked. 

The most poignant example of a trade that could only come from Jim Rutherford’s crystal ball came in 2015.  He traded a young and talented former first round pick in Simon Despres for Ben Lovejoy.  Having just won a Stanley Cup, it’s easy to look back on the past with rose-colored glasses, but this move was thought to be outright bizarre.  Jim saw it as a move that put a veteran presence on the Penguins blue-line, but more importantly, was a move that was good on the wallet.  A move that might have even gave him the latitude to later acquire another player, like Phil Kessel.  His critics were quick to remind him that he let young talent walk for a cheaper, older, “what you see is what you get” defenseman.  The Ducks might have won that trade on a talent-basis - but you can’t argue with a winner.



If Jim wants to win again, get ready for a wild season.  Get ready for moves that might make you cringe. 

One of those moves will expectedly involve a goaltender.

Matt Murray might not be a Pittsburgh Penguin by the trade deadline, just as easily as Marc-Andre Fleury might not be.  And it has less to do with age and talent than you think.

Matt Murray is very much the cheaper asset in net for next season – that’s no debate.  But he is a restricted free agent by season’s end.  Any hockey fan that remembers the Shea Weber offer-sheet fiasco ($110M over 14 years) knows that offer-sheets in restricted free agency can become a nightmare for the general manager.  Jim Rutherford knows this, and he has likely already tried to sign Matt Murray through unrestricted free agency, as he did this season with Olli Maatta ($4M AAV). 

If Matt Murray signs an extension the cap-hit increase will cause Marc-Andre Fleury (or another star) to be on a plane the next day from cap-related implications alone. 


Matt Murray just won a Stanley Cup as a rookie.  He was one of the best AHL goaltenders in the league’s history.  Although he’s only seen a small sample of NHL games, he hasn’t squandered a moment.  With all of that said, Matt Murray’s agent is undoubtedly well aware of the payday that could come on offer-sheet day after the 2016-2017 season. 

The Penguins’ cap situation isn’t getting much better after next season ($74M to $56M).  Dealing Fleury this offseason without having a firm contract on Matt Murray, and then potentially losing Matt Murray to a ludicrous offer sheet (like the Flyers gave to Shea Weber) could throw a wrench into the Penguins’ long-term plan, and Rutherford won’t allow it. 

I’m not a strong advocate for either goaltender, but the decision will be complicated.  The complication comes from three factors:

  • How much stake the Penguins front office will place in Matt Murray’s NHL-play thus far
  • How much the Penguins are willing to pay him for his limited, yet solid NHL play
  • How much more Matt Murray and his agent believe they may be offered in restricted free agency
The decision isn’t about Fleury versus Murray in the traditional sense.  This situation is about which goaltender will have the most strategic contract to compete for a Stanley Cup until the core players (Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and now Kessel) are nearing the end of their respective primes. 

Count me as someone who won’t be surprised if Fleury stays and Matt Murray is traded before the end of the season for a valuable return.  And, count me as someone who also wouldn’t be surprised if Jim Rutherford comes to terms with Matt Murray and his agent to a contract extension through unrestricted free agency with an AAV of less than $5.75M and Fleury is then traded. 

I will only be surprised if Marc-Andre Fleury is traded before Matt Murray signs a contract extension.

It’s not an argument of who’s better, or who has more potential. No matter who stays or who goes, this team isn’t a team built around goaltending.  This team is built around running the score up and never letting the foot off of the gas.  But, goaltending has a place on this team.  The Penguins’ front office values goaltending.  Trust in the fact that their singular focus is about the success of the whole team – of which the goaltender is only one (albeit, significant) component.


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